Musqueam – A living culture

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Name: Amy- Beth Sparkes (Musqueam Nation)
Grades: 3, 4, 5 ,6, 7
Subject Areas: Social Studies
Artefact /Place/ Skill: History and Knowledge of the Musqueam people and living culture.
My name is Amy-Beth Sparkes and I am honoured to be a Musqueam Community and Band member, situated in the heart of Vancouver, British Columbia. I have had the privilege of growing up, working, and residing in Musqueam my entire life. I am the grand-daughter of the late Robert Point, and come from a long line of the Point family. I uniquely experienced traditional teachings, as well as Christian faith teachings from Grandfather, and my family members. My ethnicity is both that of Indigenous and non-Indigenous decent, I come from a rich history, as I had the privilege to grow up learning our traditional Musqueam language, as well as many respected teachings of our land, our people, our elders, and about gatherings and traditional practices such as fishing, berry picking, harvesting. I too learned non-Indigenous practices from my Grandmother and other family members as well, and have experienced a uniquely balanced life of both sides of Indigenous and non-Indigenous living. I am proud to be Musqueam, and I am deeply rooted in my Indigenous roots and community.


Making Space

How might teachers prepare their students to work with this content? What background knowledge might be required?

  • Learning knowledge about who the Musqueam people are, and where they are located.
  • Musqueam website has a paragraph sharing who they are and what they represent.
  • Land-based lesson plans on where the Musqueam traditional territory is, residing in Vancouver and where the stretch of their traditional lands across the city. Research lesson plan on who the Musqueam Peoples are, and what cultural practices they have.
  • Land based lesson plan – learning about Musqueam reserve and traditional territory around Vancouver.
  • Land based – Learn about Musqueam creek and mouth of Fraser river, field trip to Musqueam and have creek-tour and forest around Musqueam
  • Cross-curricular:
    • Science (education about creek and salmon cycle, education of medicinal plants and purposes.)
    • Physical education: walking around Musqueam creek and trails and reservation during tour.
    • Literacy: journal entry and note taking
    • Literacy: life cycle of salmon and knowledge of traditional teachings.

Practice Humility

How might non-Indigenous teachers sensitively work with this subject? What might they need to consider in their own positionality?

  • The purpose of having Indigenous learning and “First Nations studies” in the classroom and within Canadian curriculum comes with the importance of learning about local reservations and communities, and local Indigenous people and their communities. Familiarizing non-Indigenous learnings with local Indigenous peoples and cultures that are still very much alive today, connecting learners to the living culture and first-peoples.
  • Understanding and learning that above all else, respect is key to the culture and peoples and to the learning and understanding of Indigenous culture and community, and their teachings.
  • Approaching all learning with recognizing that each of us are learning, living and working on traditional territory. In Vancouver, we are living, learning and working on the unceded territory of the Musqueam peoples.
  • Connections to the content and to the people and local community will help learners/student to build a better connection to Indigenous culture and to the Indigenous peoples “around them”.
  • How teaching history of Indigenous culture and community is very important and vital to our land, and the importance of giving due recognition to Indigenous culture and communities.
  • It can be a sensitive subject, as many Indigenous people and communities are overlooked or pushed aside, learning the importance of that these cultures and communities are very much a living culture and that they matter.

Acknowledge Sources

What can teachers do to find good supporting resources? How should they be cited, especially when it comes to Indigenous knowledges?

  • Indigenous peoples and their culture should be properly recognized, connecting learners to communities and Indigenous communities is vital to education and history of Canada, and many people see them as “past peoples”, bringing knowledge to a very much living community and culture here in Vancouver, and learning about the history of who Musqueam people are, their history to this land, and present living culture practices, and traditional oral language.

Teacher resources: – Musqueam language UBC

  • Musqueam Indian band website which explains who Musqueam people are and provides multiple resources and information on websites as well as video.
  • Youtube video on creek tour (Musqueam creek fieldtrip)
  • Contacting Musqueam facilities for fieldtrip tour or having visitor in-class speaker from Musqueam.

BC Curriculum Connections

How does it relate to BC Curriculum?

  • Making spaces, Land based practices included, cultural protocol traditional knowledge
  • Knowledge of Musqueam gathering protocols, funeral protocol, long-house protocol.

First Peoples’ Principles of Learning

Which First Peoples’ Principles of Learning apply?

  • At least one First Peoples Principles of learning included.
  • Acknowledge sources, traditional acknowledgment, learning that Musqueam people are people of “the river grass”, and what that means. What Musqueam looked like “then vs. now”, sharing the history of the First-Peoples.

Inviting Community

What is one way that teachers could work with community members for this project?

  • Connecting with Musqueam Indian Band facilities worker: Noreen Point at Musqueam to arrange on-reserve visit and fieldtrip opportunities or to book a community speaker/artist to visit the school to education learners about Musqueam culture and community.

Indigenous Perspectives

How does your lesson relate to decolonization or reconciliation of education?

  • Interviewing or speaking with elders from the community or educators from the community. Such as : Elder Larry Grant, or artist Debbie Sparrow, Elder Victor Point. They do both in-class and on-reserve visits.

Amy-Beth Sparkes.